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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Have you or would you pay more to see a movie in 3D or IMAX?

Monsters vs. Aliens, opening today, will be the widest 3D release ever, on more than 2,000 screens (plus around another 2,000 non-3D screens). The plan was, though, for it to be even wider:

Theater owners, slowed by funding delays that have hampered the adoption of 3-D technology, raced to complete upgrades for tomorrow’s opening of “Monsters vs. Aliens.”

Regal Entertainment Group, the largest U.S. exhibitor, and Carmike Cinemas Inc. were still converting screens this week for the DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. movie, which casts monsters as good guys defending Earth from an invasion.

The last-minute additions will put “Monsters vs. Aliens” on more than 2,000 screens in the U.S. and Canada, the widest 3- D opening ever. The credit crunch has threatened to spoil the plans of DreamWorks and other Hollywood studios that will release more than a dozen 3-D films this year to increase box- office revenue and entice audiences with the special effects.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, chief executive officer of Glendale, California-based DreamWorks Animation, said in July 2007 he hoped 5,000 or more 3-D screens would be ready for the opening, which at the time was set for this summer.

That was before the credit crisis stalled campaigns by two industry groups to borrow as much as $1.7 billion to replace thousands of 35mm projectors with digital equipment.

There’s no doubt that a movie like MvA is just a lot more fun in 3D — and IMAX, if you can find that double whammy playing near you. But with an added premium on the ticket price of more than $3, on average (according to the Bloomberg article linked above) — which means more in some places — and an even greater premium for IMAX, how many moviegoers will make a point a paying more for the same movie, especially in this tight economy? Or is the premium more than worth it for an experience we can’t get at home?

Have you or would you pay more to see a movie in 3D or IMAX?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)



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  • markyd

    I have seen My Bloody Valentine and Coraline in 3D. The former sucked, but the latter was a very good movie.
    I like the effect, but it really IS just a gimmick. A good story and characters will trump flashy effects any day.
    I’m pretty sure I would have liked Coraline just as much without the 3D, although it was well-integrated.
    My 8-year old son, when leaving the theater, claimed to have not seen any 3D in the movie. My wife and I laughed at this, but it kind of got me thinking. This being his first 3D experience, he had no basis for comparison. Plus, I just think his expectations were different than how I explained it. Kids expect bigger thrills nowadays.
    I actually think adults get a bigger kick out of 3D movies than kids.

  • I saw Coraline, Monster House, Beowulf in 3D and I saw Watchmen in IMAX.

    I am very impressed with the newer 3D technology I think it is innovative and can make a medeocre film more entertaining. I would not, however, pay more to see it.

    I was a little disappointed in the IMAX offering, it wasn’t really IMAX because the screen wasn’t quite IMAX size nor was the picture IMAX formatted. It was a movie shown on an IMAX screen and not an IMAX version of the film.

    And, cooincidentally I paid a lot less to see the IMAX Watchmen (only $7…I expected to pay $15) than regular films ($9 is the average with $7.50 matinee here)

  • Alli

    I saw Coraline in 3-D, and I think it added a lot to the experience. Seeing the individual details each artist put into the set was pretty amazing.

    I’ve never seen anything in IMAX beside educational films (several years ago might I add). I live an hour and half away from the closest IMAX, so I don’t have any plans of seeing anything soon.

  • Jim Mann

    IMAX — yes, if it is real IMAX, not just a somewhat bigger screen than the average theater. And if the movie is one where that matters.

    3D — no. Even good 3D isn’t worth the extra cost, at least in the few cases I’ve seen. And too many uses of 3D are not good. (I saw Superman Returns in 3D IMAX, and the 3D was just distracting and didn’t look right.)

    Jim

  • Riley

    I’ve paid more to see a number of movies in IMAX and 3D. Of course it depends on the movie. A movie with a lot of visual stuff going on and great sound is much better in the IMAX. It’s not a venue for a movie like The Hours.

    As far as 3D goes, I wish they’d stop putting select scene from live action movies in 3D. It looks bad. Very bad. It just doesn’t work. Now, with something like Coraline or computer animation the 3D can work very nicely. Things sort of pop and I feel like it has something to do with the depth of the image.

  • Ryan H

    I saw Coraline in 3D. It was fantastic. Well, it was a really good film in the first place but the 3D did engage me and made the experience better.

    So, yes, I plan to go out of my way to see future films in 3D and have no problem paying another couple dollars for it.

    Which should make and Hollywood executives who read this site happy :)

  • After seeing Star Wars II on IMAX, I’ve decided never to see a narrative in that format again. It’s good for total immersion films (like swimming through the sea…) but bad if you’re following a conversation – I get tennis spectator’s neck…

    As for 3D, I haven’t been.

    Regarding digital, distributors should offer exhibitors a discount (or a better percentage of the ticket price) for running digital “prints”, as they don’t have to strike a film version. I would hope such a scheme would help to offset the costs over time.

  • Deanne

    I saw Coraline in 3D and while I liked the movie, I don’t think I would spend the extra cash again. I would have enjoyed it just as much on a regular screen.

    What I would pay for again is something like last year’s U2 3D, which I saw on IMAX. The technology was used in a thrilling and totally immersive way, and I’ve never gotten that from a traditional feature film on IMAX.

  • millie

    I only saw Harry Potter V in 3D, and I could easily have done without it, so no for 3D.

    I was totally psyched to see Watchmen in IMAX, and while it was worth it for the bigger screen, the sound level just about killed me. By the end credits my head was throbbing, and I was so relieved it was over even though I loved the movie. Then of course I had to endure the blaring music playing over the credits as I was stuck in the logjam for the exit.

    That makes we wonder, MaryAnn, are you concerned that seeing so many movies in theaters will affect your hearing in the long term?

  • I mostly think 3D is interesting but distracting. I saw the re-release of Nightmare Before Christmas in 3D, and while it was neat, I’m glad I’d seen it first (many times) in 2D, since I could pay more attention to the story and characters and less on Ooh Shiny.

  • Rob

    When done right, 3-D can be amazing. The 3D Imax Polar Express was such an immersive, awe-inspiring visual experience that I was convinced that the bad reviews were all written by people who hadn’t seen it in 3-D. On the other hand, Superman Returns‘s IMAX 3-D wasn’t good at all. Meanwhile, IMAX alone for me is almost always worth the extra money. As shallow as it might seem, a really, really huge pretty picture can make it worth it to sit through a not-great movie. Even Speed Racer, I enjoyed in IMAX. So, with that said, yes, I’ll definitely be seeing Monsters vs. Aliens in 3D (real) IMAX at Lincoln Square (not the rip-off one at 42nd St) some time next week!

  • Pat

    3 of us paid to see Bolt in 3-D (it was a great movie), and I love Imax movies. I’m considering seeing Monsters & Aliens just because it’s in Imax and available locally. I would love to see the Star Wars flix (especially Anakin’s race in the earliest movie in the time sequence) in Imax.

  • Brenda

    No I wont pay extra for 3D. I hardly go to movies anyway with cable and Hulu available . It is not worth the extra cost. IMAX is a different story though. SCI FI or FANTASY films lend themselves to IMAX experience and I would consider shelling out extra bucks for them. I remember when the last Batman came out. I tried to go to see it in IMAX then but every show was sold out for days….

  • drew ryce

    I had the priviledge of seeing Dial M for Murder in 3D. Outstanding, and nary a special effect.

    Once the biz gets past the idea of using 3D and Imax as mere gimmicks it will get better.

  • Kenny

    I saw Batman Begins in IMAX… though obviously not in 3D. It was pretty good… but just.. well, bigger.

    The occassions I was really impressed with IMAX 3D movies were when I took my class to see features on the International Space Station and another (narrated by Jonny Depp and Kate Winselet!) on the Earth’s oceans.

    Both of these were vastly more interesting for the kids because of the 3D technology and I’d have paid an inflated price to see them.

  • MaryAnn

    That makes we wonder, MaryAnn, are you concerned that seeing so many movies in theaters will affect your hearing in the long term?

    I’ve never been in a movie theater where the sound was so loud that I worried for my hearing.

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